The history of Roche Bobois, the stirring story of the spoon, and why London’s Noho is the place to go
The French superbrand with playfulness at its core
In 1950s France, there was a huge need to replace furniture lost during WWII. But manufacturers there lazily assumed that French customers only liked fussy, traditional styles – which were collectively nicknamed ‘le moustache’ (presumably an allusion to fusty old gentlemen). One exception was entrepreneur Jacques Roche, who founded forward-looking furniture firm Roche in 1950. The timing was right: Paris interiors fair the Salon des Arts Ménagers promoted innovative ideas and an emerging youthful style.
Initially, Roche sold Bauhaus-inspired furniture, modern appliances and fold-up wall beds. His sons Philippe and François soon joined the company. In 1960, they met brothers Patrick and Jean-claude Chouchan by chance, and the four set up a new brand, Roche Bobois (Bobois being a shortened form of Beau Bois, the name of the Chouchan family’s Paris furniture store). In the 1970s, Roche Bobois began stocking Hans Hopfer’s innovative, floor-level modular sofas; inspired by communal Middle Eastern seating, they chimed with the increasingly laid-back lifestyles of the day.
Overall, Roche Bobois – whose current CEO is (non-family member) Gilles Bonan – takes a pluralist approach to design, always allowing room for playfulness. A new addition is a collection by Christian Lacroix Maison, which includes cabinets featuring landscape scenes (left), and flamboyant chairs with curved backs resembling tailor’s mannequins. While ritzy, it remains true to the original Roche Bobois spirit (roche-bobois.com).
Roche Bobois takes a pluralist approach to design, always allowing room for playfulness
From top ‘Odea’ sofa and chairs by Roberto Tapinassi & Maurizio Manzoni. Patrick Chouchan. Cabinet by Christian Lacroix Maison. ‘Cute Cut’ side table by Cédric Ragot